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A Q&A with 6 talented ladies

MICHELLE RANAVAT | PRIYA KRISHNA | MANI JASSAL
LISA ASHLEY | DEEPICA MUTYALA | STELLA SIMONA

To celebrate Women’s History month, I wanted to shine a light on women who have created something unique, have incredible aesthetic, and are raising the bar within their fields. With this #AdaraAdores campaign, I wanted to share their stories in hopes of inspiring you!

 
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Meet Stella Simona

When I first came across Stella, I was immediately drawn to her style and aesthetic. She is the co-owner of fine jewelry brands, Haati Chai and Amarilo, as well as the curator for her blog, Chai Time. I love that she blends the perfect amount of minimal simplicity with culture and character. Stella has created such a beautiful brand and she truly has a keen eye for design. Take a scroll to read more about her!

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Tell me about you!

Hello everyone, I’m Stella. I’m a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. I co-own beautiful fine jewelry brands Amarilo and Haati Chai and i’m also the curator my blog Chai Time.


How has your identity and culture shaped your aesthetic?

My aesthetic is a direct reflection of my journey as an individual. I’ve always loved what I love but I became extremely connected to who I was after the birth of my son -- I truly found myself and knew what I stood for.


What was the moment you knew you wanted to make the jump into jewelry? If it wasn't a moment, how did you end up getting to that decision?

Jewelry is something that has always meant so much to me from as young as I can remember. My nana would go back home every summer and bring me back things -- clothes, dolls, trinkets, jewelry. Eventually I began to request strictly jewelry. After I turned 15 she had me sketch out what I wanted and brought the designs back to life. The rest is history.


If you had the chance, what would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to take a moment to learn balance. I spent so much of my time early on working so much and never taking time off or time to myself. I make it a point to take me time and in the years that I have practiced balance I have found myself and my business growing the most.


 

Do you offer any engagement rings or pieces for brides to be or bridal parties? If so what are they? And what would be your advice to future brides?

For our Amarilo line we have already launched our engagement rings -- they’re all classic staples designed with timelessness in mind. We will be launching Haati Chai engagement this year -- the designs will be more unique and one of a kind like those who wear them. Design-wise they are a nod to 16th Century Mughal India which is my most favorite era in history. We do often get many orders for bridal parties as well. Brides love to have their parties wearing something they can wear everyday and forever and both our lines have unique styles that bridesmaids can truly connect with. Future brides, make sure it’s about you and your future spouse to be. Have fun and take your wedding as a time to treat yourself and your relationship. Don’t get caught up trying to make everyone happy.


What is the most challenging and rewarding parts of what you do?

Most challenging is that my business partner and I have a big vision and it often feels like not enough time sometimes to do it all. We started creating jewelry as a mode of self expression- to get in touch with ourselves and we wanted others to embrace their identities through the jewelry that they wear. Each piece is intended to symbolize something to its wearer -- a gift to self for a new job, a memento marking the birth of a new baby, a breakup with a boyfriend, a trip -- the celebration of life. Every time we hear our customer’s unique stories it is truly special to us.


Define your style in 3 words

Timeless, effortless, and tonal.


What advice would you give to women looking to go into a creative industry?

Stay passionate, always set goals and timelines. Listen to your gut. Find good mentors and accountability partners.

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Meet Deepica Mutyala

I first met Deepica when she was on a Q&A panel at a pop show I was featured in. She was able to captivate everybody in that room through her energy and passion for a more inclusive world. Deepica is one of the most prominent South-Asian beauty entrepreneurs who found success as a YouTuber after her second video nearly broke the internet, garnering over 10 million views. She has used that power to cultivate Live Tinted, an inclusive beauty community that explores identity + culture “for all the shades in between.” Live Tinted features women who are underrepresented in media in a centralized hub and builds real conversations around beauty through highlighting individuals from all walks of life. It’s not about your race or ethnicities - Live Tinted is a cross-cultural platform that helps the community, known as the #TintFam, recognize the commonalities we all have. Read more about Deepica and her story below!

 
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How has your culture influenced you to be where you are today?

It’s the whole driving force behind everything I do - my number one goal is to build a tomorrow that is more accepting of others. I know it sounds cheesy but I grew up not wanting to embrace my culture and where I came from. My hope is that by showcasing myself and building a community all about culture that others will grow up doing the same. I wish I didn’t waste those years neglecting my culture because it’s the most beautiful part of who I am.


I know your dad really wanted you to be a doctor, is he still like that now after seeing all of your accomplishments?

He’s my number one fan - it’s really cute I’ll come home and see him watching my YouTube videos. Get’s me emotional! There’s nothing better than hearing your immigrant father say “you were right”.


What is the most challenging and rewarding parts of what you do?

I want to do so much - that makes the everyday execution challenging but that’s also what makes everyday rewarding. I’m pushing towards a very big dream but need to remind myself it takes steps to get there.

What is next for Live Tinted?!

Everything we do stems from what we hear the community tell us they want and the number one thing we hear from our community is that the beauty space needs to speak to them more. We started that by launching the community and we’ll be revealing very soon our next effort in how we plan to help make that happen very soon. I’m so excited about it..I could cry!

 

If you had the chance, what would tell your younger self?

Parts of me saying I wish I could tell little Deeps to embrace who she truly is a little more - soak in your culture and give your parents a hug because they love you. At the same time, I wouldn’t want to tell her that because it’s part of what has made me the person I am wanting to change that narrative for people growing up today.

What advice would you give to women wanting to pursue a creative path who are getting pressure from their families to do something safer?

Remember that your parents mean well - they just want the best for you and only know what they know. They are trying to protect you. It won’t be easy...it’s actually going to be really hard and they won’t get it at first, but at the end of the day they just want to see you happy. Go chase your happy and everything else will fall into place (eventually after a lot of hard work).

I grew up in a culture where the definition of the American Dream was becoming a doctor because becoming a doctor meant you were educated and becoming educated meant you were respected in America. That is what my parents definition of American Dream is. To me, the American Dream is paving the path for others that wasn’t created for me. I feel proud that other Indian women feel empowered to go for their dreams because they see someone that looks like them reach theirs. It’s interesting being specifically an indian influencer because we are still heavy underrepresented in the media. My hope is with platforms like #livetinted, that changes.


Define your style in 3 words.

Effortless, comfy, chic...honestly I never know what to say to this because I don’t know if I have a specific style. I just wear what makes me feel good.

 
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What inspires you to create content:

My 2nd video I ever uploaded went viral because I shared a hack to solve a beauty concern of mine. I used a red lipstick under my eyes to hide dark circles. I wasn’t thinking too much into it - I was just sharing a tip that I thought women who looked like me could benefit from. Ten million views later, I realized that creating content around that purpose works. It’s not overly produced and it’s not forced.

At first, I was inspired to create content by my own life experiences and feeling like there wasn’t anyone who looked like me speaking to girls who looked like me. Since then, I’m inspired by the girls, mainly south asian women but also beyond that, who reach out to me saying how much I’ve inspired them to go for their goals and dreams. Them saying that me showcasing my culture unapologetically and speaking to my beauty concerns as a south asian women makes them more comfortable in their skin and it also makes them feel like they can go out there both online and in the media and create a career path they didn’t once think was possible because there wasn’t anyone they previously saw doing it. That to me is my everyday driving force. For someone who started their career on the corporate side of the beauty business, switching over to the influencer side made me uncomfortable at first. I have very traditional south asian parents who always dreamt of seeing me become a doctor. At least when I was on the corporate side of beauty, he could see me as a business woman, but being an “influencer” - what does that even mean? Now my dad is part of my everyday inspiration to keep going and is my biggest supporter. At the end of the day, your parents just want to see you happy, but it may take some time and a ton of self drive/belief for them to get your vision.


 

These women who reached out to me while I was building my career as an influencer are a core part of the driving force in launching TINTED (@livetinted). I wanted to build a community bigger than myself. I wanted there to be a centralized hub where you could see all different standards of beauty in one place and realize you’re not alone. Me as one person pushing to do that didn’t make sense because I can only authentically speak to my own beauty concerns, but by launching a digital community where we are highlight individuals in the #tintfam from all walks of life, both beauty enthusiasts and newbies, we are able to really show a spectrum of shades. Launching this community on Instagram is only what made sense. People want short form digestible content. We treat every post on @livetinted as if it was a blog post and keep all the engagement and community conversation on IG itself. When’s the last time you read something on Instagram and actually hit the link in bio for the full story? Instagram has enough tools and platforms in it across live, stories, highlights, and now IGTV as well as even buying merch to where there isn’t really a need to have the #TintFam leave.

The whole goal of launching @livetinted was to build more positivity online. I wanted to show that we can all win - let’s spotlight others rather than ourselves and not feel like that’s us sacrificing our own career growth. I also wanted to make it a point to not just spotlight “influencers” or celebrities. These are real women who’s voices deserve to be heard. I feel so fortunate that the @livetinted community is so positive. Everyone knows that our voice only stands for that. Even when we are calling out brands that may not be doing inclusivity best, we make sure that our perspective is constructive. We want to move beauty standard forward so that sometimes means challenging what’s out there but always in a positive constructive way.

On my own channel, I do weekly spotlights of women I admire. I also make it a point to showcase my family and culture. I think growing up I was embarrassed of that person and my hope is that others growing up today don’t go through that same period in life because I so wish I didn’t. My culture and family are the two happiest parts of my life and I just wish I realized that earlier!

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Meet Lisa Ashley

I first came to know Lisa when I was looking for photographers for my own wedding. Lisa had such a great roster of curated artists with different price ranges that was extremely useful to me a the time. As someone who does a lot of art direction myself, I was extremely picky in what style of photography I was looking for especially since the South Asian wedding scene has a particular kind of aesthetic that I definitely wanted to stay away from. And that’s why I wanted to share Lisa’s story and business, The Wedding Artists Co. which is a group of insanely talented photographers and videographers she has curated. Read more about Lisa below :)

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Tell me about you!

I grew up in California and majored in the Humanities with a focus on philosophy.  After getting my BA and drifting a bit in San Francisco I went onto photography school for a year at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. After a year of photography school I realized that, though I was passionate about photography and especially photographers and creative people, I myself was not destined to be a photographer.  I took a leap of faith and moved to NY without a job.  After a brief internship in the photo department at Oprah magazine I started to look for ways to support photographers and found repping and have been doing this in some shape form or another for about 15 years. 

What services do you provide? 

I represent wedding photographers and filmmakers.  I work to help establish and/or maintain relationships with wedding planners and vendors as well as help to promote the artists’ work. I manage their inquires, contracts and negotiations. 

How did Wedding Artists Co come to be? / Did you always want to do this, or did you stumble upon it?

I stumbled upon it! I worked as a commercial photographer’s rep for a big firm in NYC when, long story short I got the idea to help a friend of mine with his wedding clients.  I threw a website together, put his work up and I’ve slowly built it up from there.

Define your style in 3 words.

I’m not sure how to describe my own style here but I can say the weddings we love to work on are personal, design forward and elevated

 

What is the most challenging and rewarding parts of what you do?

The most challenging aspects and the rewarding parts are two sides of the same coin.  The most challenging sometimes can be handling tricky conversations (which usually come up around requests for discounts or the contract)  in a diplomatic way that leaves everyone feeling good and excited to work together. The most rewarding part of what I do is when I handle a tricky situation in a way that leaves everyone feeling good and excited to work together :)


What is next for Wedding Artists Co?

Probably not a whole lot of changing is coming in a structural way but we do continue to work bigger, more creative and elevated events and I’m really excited to see the direction the artists are headed.  

What advice would you give to brides looking for photographers and videographers?

If great photography is important for them, I would definitely suggest they do a fair amount of research before they hone in on their budget for photography/videography.  We have people who come in with a clear idea of what they think they should spend but sometimes they need to adjust their budget to match their taste and how much they value quality coverage . I’d absolutely recommend that they chat with their photographer and make sure they feel a genuine connection. The warmer your relationship is to your photographer the more relaxed you’ll be and the better your photos will look.  In terms of working well together as a team (which is huge!) I’d always ask your photographer for their recommendations for videographers. 

If you had the chance, what would you tell your younger self?

The same thing my older self is probably trying to tell my current self- 1) Stay present and try and focus on all that is good in your life.  2) Put your phone down and read a book instead. 3) For goodness sake, go easy on yourself. You’re only human.

 
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Meet Mani Jassal

When I first thought of featuring women who were creating something new and aesthetically pleasing, Mani was the first person that came to mind. She has created such a name for herself by embracing her dual identity to create modern South Asian inspired pieces. Mani was born in Punjab, moved to Toronto at 5, and graduated with a degree in Fashion Design. Her first show stood out from the rest with her unique approach to South Asian attire. It was one that replaced heavy beading and large looks with lightweight, unique silhouettes….I feel that! Read more about Mani and her words of wisdom below!

 
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Define your style in 3 words 

My style is all over the place since I love to be comfortable but I also love glamming up when given the chance. But if I had to choose 3 words. Chill, Eclectic, Sexy

Did you ever get push back from your family for wanting to pursue a creative career? If so, how did you deal with it? 

Of course! My parents wanted. me to be an engineer, so much so that I also thought that was what I would do (secretly still wish I did both). However, they saw how persistent I was and how passionate I was, so now both my parents are my biggest support system. I wouldn't be where I am with out them. 

What advice would you give to future brides? 

Stay true to yourself. Be the unapologetic bride. This is YOUR day!

 

How has your identity shaped your design aesthetic? 

My brand is a representation of me. I immigrated to Canada when I was 5 years old, and grew up with 2 cultures. I am so happy that I am able to put both of them in my art. 

If you had the chance, what would tell your younger self?  

I think of this question all the time, and I feel like I have so much to tell her. I think the 11 year old me would be very happy to see what I am doing now, since that was the dream. I would tell her to not be embarrassed of your culture, don't try to hide it, and to embrace it. This was a constant struggle growing up because in school I felt the need to hide it to "fit in". I feel so silly thinking that I actually did that or felt that way, but I was a kid. 

 
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Meet Priya Krishna

Food writer and cookbook author of Indian-ish, Priya Krishna, has quite the taste. Being Indian-American, I’m so excited for her book to come out because she explores this fusion of cultures through everyday food for the modern American family. Priya also has a way with words and brings light to topics that are overlooked yet so integral to culture…like yogurt culture! Which, if you haven’t read the article you should check it out! Anyway, scroll down to read more!

 
Photo by Edlyn D’Souza

Photo by Edlyn D’Souza

 

Tell me about you!

I'm a food writer, mainly for the New York Times and Bon Appétit, and the author of the cookbook, Indian-ish. Also, I love crosswords! 

How did you get into cooking? 

This is a true story: I started a column in my college newspaper that was all about how to take the dining hall food and turn it into gourmet meals. 

Did you go to school for it? If not, how did you make the switch? Was your family supportive for choosing something outside the typical South Asian career path?

I was a government and French major — but I actually wrote my thesis (in French) about the notion of taste and restaurant culture, and I found a way to focus quite a few projects around food. My family was certainly confused, at first, as this is a world they're so unfamiliar with, but they've come around!

How were you able to transition yourself into more of the food industry?

 I feel like very few people actually work in the field that their major is in! I just reached out to a lot of people I admired, got an internship working at a restaurant PR firm, and (thanks to a cold email! I write a lot of cold emails!) eventually landed at Lucky Peach, the food magazine.

 

Where does your inspiration come from? 

If I'm being totally honest, my dad is an unbelievable fount of ideas and knowledge. The man knows everything, and he constantly has his ear to the ground. He comes to me with the best story ideas! He is not a journalist, but he totally could have been one. But my family, in general, is a huge source of inspiration! 

Top 3 favorite foods! Go! 

Yogurt, pasta (anything noodle-like, really), dumplings 

What is the most challenging and rewarding parts of what you do? 

Rewarding: getting to tell great stories, and to shine a light on amazing people, particularly those whose voices have traditionally been underrepresented in the world of food.

Challenging: the constant impostor syndrome! Wanting to do justice to someone's narrative! Always wanting to write more, do more interviews, report more, but there are only a limited number of hours in the day! 

If you had the chance, what would you tell your younger self? 

I know life can seem grim and you are getting bullied on a regular basis, but one day you are literally going to get paid to eat, so stick it out!  

 
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Meet Michelle Ranavat

Industrial Engineer. Professional Indian Dancer. CEO and Founder of Ranavat. Michelle can really do it all! I admire her for not only creating an idea to stay connected to her culture but actually going after it and creating a beautiful, quality focused beauty line. I love how Michelle has taken inspiration from her family roots in Rajasthan and created this royal beauty ritual with quality ingredients. Read more about her below!

 
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Tell me about yourself!

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago – my parents immigrated from India in the 70s and started their life by working extremely hard.  My dad is a chemist and my mom an interior designer (she wanted to be an architect but they told her that women couldn’t be architects so she chose the closest thing she could find).  The day my parents found out they were pregnant with me was when my dad lost his job.  Instead of moving back- he decided to take it as an opportunity to start his own chemicals business.  37 years later he is still working and growing the company and counts all the largest pharmaceutical companies and universities his clients.  I always had both a creative side (from my mom) and a scientific side (my dad).  I studied Industrial Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also have a master’s degree from Tufts University in Engineering Management.  My first job out of college was in NYC at Lehman Brothers!  I worked there until 2008 when the company collapsed.  At that point, I switched back to my engineering roots and worked with my dad to grow his business.

 

How did you make the jump from being an Engineer to launching a skincare company? How did you get the courage?

After working with my father for a number of years in a sales and quality capacity I realized that skincare products were either incredibly luxurious but made with subpar ingredients OR the ingredients were great, but they were sold at supermarkets and on Amazon.  I wanted to create a line that focused first and foremost on Ingredient quality because I find there is a genuine correlation between quality and performance.  But instead of a medicinal experience, I wanted to make it all about Royalty.  I was inspired by the beauty of ancient India-- especially how it is shown in movies like Jodhaa Akbar and Veer Zaara and the incredible work of Sabyasachi to create a line that had a very clear Indian influence and very elevated aesthetic.

Define your style in 3 words:

Classic, simple, comfortable

 
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How has your cultural identity shaped you?

I have a very deep connection to India and my heritage.  For many years (and until this day) I connect with India on so many levels.  As a professional Indian dancer (I have been in movies, commercials and TV shows as a bollywood extra!).  As children, we visited every year and grew very strong relationships with our family (many of whom still live in Mumbai).   One of the biggest reasons I started Ranavat Botanics is to continue my connection with India and share it with the world (India included).  Many people practice yoga and meditation here- but many of the Indian beauty secrets are still widely undiscovered.  Even in India, growing up many people aspired to be more westernized in India and over the past 5 or so years I have seen a huge cultural shift in India as well – were more people are inspired to reconnect with their heritage.

 

What advice would you give to women looking to make a huge switch in their careers?

Don’t be afraid of hard work.  Social media makes everything look incredibly easy these days and the reality is that there is SO MUCH hard work that goes into creating and building a business.  We are now trained to think that if it doesn’t come easy like we see on social, that we have failed.  The reality is that everyone has successes and failures along the way- but the people that actually reach the end are the ones that did not let the failure stop them from continuing onwards.

What does beauty mean to you and how has Ranavat helped you share it?

Beauty is about aging well and prioritizing health.  I believe in engaging in fundamental lifestyle shifts rather than searching for a quick fix.  Its about using quality ingredients on your skin but also taking care of yourself as a whole—eating / sleeping well + exercising and finding ways to cope with stress!

 
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